Science Fact of the Week 45 - Poison Dart Frogs

Poison Dart Frogs, members of the Dendrobatidae family, wear some of the most brilliant and beautiful colours on Earth. Depending on individual habitats, which extend from the tropical forests of Costa Rica to Brazil, their colouring can be yellow, gold, copper, red, green, blue, or black. Their elaborate designs and hues are deliberate warnings to potential predators.

Some species display unusual parenting habits too, including carrying both eggs and tadpoles on their backs (Click here for a previous video post). Although this "backpacking" is not unique among amphibians, male poison arrow frogs are exceptional in their care, attending to the clutch, sometimes exclusively, and performing vital transportation duties.

Dart Frogs are some of the most toxic animals on Earth. The five-centimeter-long Golden Poison Dart Frog (pictured above) has enough venom to kill 10 grown men. Indigenous Emberá people of Colombia have used its powerful venom for centuries to tip their blowgun darts when hunting, hence the common name.

Scientists are unsure of the source of poison dart frogs' toxicity, but it is possible they are able to use plant poisons which are carried by their prey, including ants, termites and beetles. Poison dart frogs raised in captivity and isolated from insects in their native habitat never develop venom.

The medical research community has been exploring possible medicinal uses for some poison dart frog venom. Some uses include pain killers, anesthetics and diet suppressants. Click here to see a gallery of photos showing the huge colour variation of the Dart Frogs.


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